Importance of Literature Review

By Anthony M. Wanjohi:

Review of literature in any study is not a cup of tea; it requires scholarly maturity. Good review of literature is a sign of professional maturity; it shows one’s grasp of the field, one’s methodological sophistication in critiquing others’ research, and the breadth and depth of one’s reading (Krathwohl , 1988).

There are a number of reasons why review of related literature remains core component of any scientific study. These include but not limited to the following:

Firstly, review of literature acts as a stepping-stone towards achievement of the study objectives. For scholars, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the writer in his or her field.

Secondly, literature reviews provide a solid background to back one’s investigation. The review plays a critical role in analyzing the existing literature and giving justification as to how one’s research fits into the existing body of knowledge.  This implies that the literature review provides the general understanding which gives meaning to the discussion of findings, conclusions, and recommendations.  This allows the author to demonstrate how his / her research is linked to prior efforts and how it extends to build on better understanding.

Thirdly, literature reviews help the researcher to avoid duplication, identify the gaps in other studies with the goal of filling them, borrow from the research design and methodology used to investigate that particular problem and to interpret his or her own findings.

In general terms, the literature review helps  to provide a context for the research, justify the research, ensure the research hasn’t been done, show where the research fits into the existing body of knowledge, enable the researcher to learn from previous theory on the subject, illustrate how the subject has previously been studied, highlight flaws in previous research, outline gaps in previous research, show that the work is adding to the understanding and knowledge of the field, help refine, refocus or even change the topic.

The temptation of being shallow, (and even to copy and paste) in review of literature is high. Thus, students of research, practitioners and scholars too are encouraged to shun away from being drawn into scholarly mediocrity.


Krathwohl , D.R. (1988). How to Prepare a Research Proposal: Guidelines for Funding and Dissertations in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Syracuse NYSyracuse University Press.